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Utah Division of Water Rights Blake W. Bingham, P.E. Adjudication Program Manager Utah General Adjudications Rural Water Association.

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Presentation on theme: "Utah Division of Water Rights Blake W. Bingham, P.E. Adjudication Program Manager Utah General Adjudications Rural Water Association."— Presentation transcript:

1 Utah Division of Water Rights Blake W. Bingham, P.E. Adjudication Program Manager Utah General Adjudications Rural Water Association of Utah April 25 th, 2013

2 July 23, 1847: Advance party of the Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley and began breaking- up the ground to prepare the land for crops. Water from City Creek Canyon was diverted to moisten the soil for plowing and later used for irrigation. September 30, 1848: Brigham Young declares, “There shall be no private ownership of the streams that come out of the canyons... These belong to the people: all the people.” 1847 – 1850: The pioneer settlement went from being part of Mexico to the State of Deseret to the Territory of Utah; however, government remained Church-centric. Diversions of water from streams were generally on a community basis to meet the immediate needs of the settlers. The doctrine of priority evolved from Church leaders’ recognition of groups who first put the water to beneficial use as well as later beneficiaries (primary and secondary rights). Conflicts were settled through ecclesiastical channels; Bishop’s Courts for local wards provided a judicial process with Stake High Councils serving as appellate courts. Historical Context – The Pioneer Era

3 1852: The first Territorial Legislative Assembly passed an act authorizing the County Court control of “all timber, water privileges, or any water course or creek.” Salt Lake County was the only one to assume these duties… other counties streams were diverted without public restriction. 1877: The Desert Land Act was passed to promote homesteading of arid and semiarid public land. The Act also severed the title of the water from the public land and delegated authority to appropriate the water to the respective state or territory. 1880: Due to failure to enforce the 1852 act, the legislature passed an act that replaced the County Court’s authority with the County Selectmen as the ex-officio water commissioners. Allowed recognition, determination, and recording… but not appropriation. Once again, this was only enforced in a few counties and the certificates were generally considered worthless. Confusion over existing water rights continued in spite of the efforts of the Utah Territorial Legislature. The Church continued to administer and decree water rights in some areas (e.g. 1879 High Council Decision to divide the waters of the Spanish Fork River among various canal companies). Historical Context - Territorial Era

4 1896: Utah gains Statehood. Due to fears of possible confiscation of existing water rights by the State under a comprehensive water code, the adopted constitution only had one sentence regarding water law: ”All existing rights to the use of any of the waters in this State for any useful or beneficial purpose, are hereby recognized and confirmed.” - Constitution of the State of Utah, Article XVII 1897: Office of the State Engineer created and tasked with conducting hydrographic surveys and measuring stream sources. Appropriations were made by posting notice at the source, the nearest post office, and the county recorder… largely ignored. 1902: United States Reclamation Service (i.e. The Bureau of Reclamation) established to “reclaim” arid lands in the Western United States. To secure Federal funding for Reclamation projects, states were encouraged to adopt statutes which provided certainty regarding existing water rights and future appropriations. 1903: State legislature enacted the first Utah Water Law which provided for (among others): The definition and public recording of all existing water rights and the adjudicating of rights by the Court. Legislature failed to provide funding to the local Courts. ”While this law was ideal in purpose and virtue… the law failed miserably as a means of adjudicating existing water rights. As a matter of fact no rights were ever adjudicated by virtue of it.” - State Engineer Biennial Report 1919-20 1919: The legislature provided the “machinery” to adjudicate water rights on a given stream by directing the State Engineer to develop a “proposed determination” of water rights for the Court to consider. Historical Context - Statehood and Beyond Willard Young State Engineer

5 Prior to the enactment of the comprehensive Utah Water Law in 1903, rights to the use of water typically fell into a combination of five categories: 1.Rights decreed by ecclesiastical leaders. 2.Claims filed for record at the county. 3.Rights decreed by a court (typically involving limited parties) and recorded at the Courthouse. 4.Contractual agreements between various entities. 5.Claims never manifested in any record, but evidenced by pre-statutory use. The lack of a definitive water law created a number of issues: 1.There was typically no public record of existing water rights. 2.Since there was no record, over appropriation of streams was common. 3.Often, rights weren’t defined until they came into controversy and had to be settled by ecclesiastical or court decree. In his biennial report for 1901-02, the State Engineer made the following observation: “The definition of existing rights appears to be of first importance. This is not only necessary to pacify present contention, but to prevent future conflicts and encourage further progress. There can be no safe basis for future work before existing rights are known and made of public record.” – A.F. Doremous, Utah State Engineer The Historical Case for Adjudication

6 Water Rights/Adjudication in Western States The Colorado System (1881/1969): Courts adjudicate rights without any administrative water rights appropriation system (Water Courts established in 1969). Resulted in over-appropriation of surface waters in early system. Water rights are not considered “perfected” until decreed by the Court. Pre-statutory claims (i.e. Diligence Claims) don’t exist due comprehensive and on-going adjudication approach. An “Abandonment List” is published by the State Engineer every 10 years. Other states: Unique to Colorado. The Wyoming System (1890) : Individual water rights are appropriated via permit through the State Engineer and then adjudicated by the Board of Control (similar to Utah’s certification process). All pre-statutory claims which existed prior to statehood were adjudicated by the Board of Control. Abandonment (forfeiture) can be adjudicated by the Board of Control after 5 years of non-use. Other states: Nebraska and Alaska (Texas & Nevada adopted the Wyoming System but Court deemed it unconstitutional so they subsequently adopted the Oregon System).

7 Water Rights/Adjudication in Western States The Bien Code (1905): Based largely on Utah statute at the time of its inception. Incorporates administrative permitting system for appropriations but retains water rights adjudication jurisdiction in the Court. Administrative agency (e.g. State Engineer’s Office) prepares a hydrographic survey. Hydrographic survey is delivered to the state’s Attorney General who files suit with the respective District Court and prosecutes it. The Court is required to interpret the hydrographic survey and issue a decree based on evaluation of the data and water users’ claims. Other states: North Dakota, New Mexico, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Montana. Oregon System (1909): Very similar to Bien System with regard to appropriations. Water rights are adjudicated in the Court. Administrative agency (e.g. State Engineer’s Office) prepares a hydrographic survey. State Engineer develops a proposed determination of water rights (in conjunction with the hydrographic survey) and files it with the Court. The Court reviews the proposed determination, addresses objections, and issues a decree. Other states: Arizona, California, Washington, Nevada, Texas, Utah, and Idaho

8 What is a General Stream Adjudication? What it IS… Action in District Court Binds water users and the State Engineer (Division of Water Rights) Governed by Utah State Code: Title 73, Chapter 4. The first General Stream Adjudications took place in the 1920s – Sevier, Weber and the Virgin River basins.

9 Why Do We Conduct General Adjudications? 1.Bring all claims on to the permanent record: Pre-Statutory Claims Diligence Claims Underground Water Claims Pending Adjudication Claims Federal Reserve Rights Winter’s Doctrine (1908) McCarran Amendment (1952) 2.To prevent a “multiplicity of suits” and bring clarity to the water rights picture. 3.Remove/reduce rights which have been wholly or partially forfeited through non-use…? 4.To obtain decrees on all water rights—including certificated rights…? …but what about Federal rights?

10 Adjudication Process 1 The State Engineer is petitioned by water users or court-ordered to initiate a General Adjudication. (UCA 73-4-1) PETITION NOTICE The State Engineer publishes notice of the pending adjudication for 2 weeks in a local newspaper. (UCA 73-4-3) 2 90 days Claimants have 90 days to notify the State Engineer of their names and addresses; at the conclusion of the 90 days, the State Engineer submits a list of claimants to the District Court. (UCA 73-4-3) 90 days Claimants have 90 days to notify the State Engineer of their names and addresses; at the conclusion of the 90 days, the State Engineer submits a list of claimants to the District Court. (UCA 73-4-3) 3 The State Engineer serves Summons on claimants and publishes Summons for 5 weeks in a local newspaper. (UCA 73-4-4) SUMMONS 4 8 The State Engineer holds a Public Meeting to discuss the Proposed Determination with claimants. (UCA 73-4-11) PUBLIC MEETING 6 The State Engineer conducts a hydrographic survey of the area and assists the claimants in completing their Water User’s Claims. (UCA 73-4-3) HYDROGRAPHIC SURVEY 7 PROPOSED DETERMINATION CLAIM CLAIM CLAIM The State Engineer reviews Water User’s Claims and other records and prepares a Proposed Determination which is then distributed to the claimants and filed with the District Court. (UCA 73-4-11) The State Engineer holds an initial Public Meeting in the local area to discuss the adjudication process. (UCA 73-4-3) PUBLIC MEETING 5 90 days Claimants have 90 days to file an objection to the Proposed Determination with the District Court. (UCA 73-4-11) 90 days Claimants have 90 days to file an objection to the Proposed Determination with the District Court. (UCA 73-4-11) 9 FINAL SUMMONS The State Engineer serves the final summons via publication for 5 weeks in a local newspaper. (UCA 73-4-22) 10 OBJECTION RESOLUTION The State Engineer resolves objections to the Proposed Determination with respective water users. (UCA 73-4-14) 11 The District Court issues a Decree (or Interlocutory Decree) on the Proposed Determination. (UCA 73-4-15) DECREE 12

11 The Proposed Determination Process The Proposed Determination Official recommendation of the State Engineer to the District Court The Process Public Meeting: Hold a public meeting to inform water users. Research: Identify, research, and field-review water rights within the proposed determination area. Hydrographic Survey: Conduct a hydrographic survey to identify existing points of diversion, places and extent of use. Claim Preparation: Help water users prepare and submit Water User Claims. Publish Proposed Determination: Compile Water User Claims, publish, and distribute Proposed Determination. File with Court: The Proposed Determination is filed with the District Court. Resolve Objections: Resolve objections filed by water users to the proposed determination if possible. Court Decree: The District Court hears any remaining disputes and issues a decree on the water rights within the proposed determination area.

12 Research and Field Review Research old court decrees and other documents. Field review claims within the area to determine extent of claim. Meet with water users to discuss claim and observe beneficial use.

13 Hydrographic Survey Maps Snap-shot in time Hard copy originals on file at Salt Lake City Office and Regional Office. Can be viewed online at the Division of Water Rights webpage: http://www.waterrights.utah. gov/adjdinfo/hydromap.asp

14 Hydrographic Survey Maps

15 Water User’s Claims Completed and filed by the water user at the Court (per statute). Adjudication staff typically help in completing the claim. State Engineer files the claim with the Court on behalf of the water user as a courtesy. Claims typically only taken on perfected (certificated) or decreed rights and diligence claims.

16 Proposed Determination Represents State Engineer’s official determination of rights. Filed with the District Court. Delivered to water users within the adjudication boundary.

17 Objections I OBJECT! ME TOO! SQUIRREL! Questions of Fact & Law Objections must be filed with the court within 90-days. Must be verified on oath. Filed with the clerk of the respective District Court. Court may be petitioned to allow a late objection. Objection Filed Voluntary Withdrawal Settlement Litigation Objection Withdrawn Court Order Proposed Determination Appeal?

18 Decrees In the “early” days, one Proposed Determination was published for one river drainage (e.g. Weber & Sevier Rivers). Interlocutory or Partial Decrees are often issued for sub-divisions of the river drainage. Federal Water Rights: Winters v. United States, 1908: Federal Reserved Rights on Federal lands (e.g. Indian Reservations, National Parks, Forests, etc.) McCarran Amendment, 1953: Forces Federal Government to be subject to State court. Decrees often include language closing the respective basin from additional diligence claims. …but what about Federal rights?

19 Will I lose my water right? Water users who are currently using their water right in conformance with the records on file with the Division of Water Rights have nothing to worry about. Individuals using water without a water right of record are required to submit a claim during the proposed determination process or risk being barred from future claims and use. If the water use authorized under the water right has fallen out of use for 7-years or more, the water right—or a portion of it—may be recommended to be disallowed in the proposed determination.

20 Where are we today? State-wide Program focusing on Adjudication Consists of 5 staff members Program Manager Adjudication Engineer 3 Adjudication Technicians Regional Offices support Adjudication efforts as available. Continually working with the Attorney General’s office to resolve objections to previous Proposed Determinations in order to obtain interlocutory decrees. There are over 500 un-resolved objections on record. Taylor Flat (Area 05) Ash Creek / La Verkin (Area 81) Harmony Park (Area 57) Harmony Park (Area 57) Ashley Central (Area 45) Ashley Central (Area 45) Birdseye (Area 51) Birdseye (Area 51)

21 Who can I contact to discuss the Adjudication Process? Lindsey Carrigan, E.I.T. Adjudication Engineer Phone: 385 226-7805 E-mail: Carissa Brandt Adjudication Technician Phone: 801-664-8452 E-mail: Mike Handy, P.G. Adjudication Team Leader Phone: 801-538-7463 E-mail: Josh Zimmerman Adjudication Technician Phone: 801-946-7168 E-mail: Utah Division of Water Rights 1594 West North Temple Suite 220, PO Box 146300 Salt Lake City, UT 84114-6300 Blake Bingham, P.E. Adjudication Program Manager Phone: 801-538-7345 E-mail:

22 Questions?

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